Read Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.

| March 13, 2016

Introduction:
Lorde’sZami is another semi-autobiographical novel. Many of the events of the novel closely resemble Lorde’s own life. She invented the term “biomythography” to describe/define this work of fiction. As we read this novel, we see many similarities with Winterson’s work. In both cases, the protagonist is coming of age and her development involves defining her identity against a backdrop of unsupportive social and familial institutions. In Winterson, the primary social institutions against which Jeanette struggles are the church and her mother. In Lorde’s novel, the social backdrop of sexism, racism, and generalized homophobia constrain and complicate her identity development.

Discussion questions:
There are several issues to consider. Please respond to 3 of these issues 

  1. Home:  Lorde’s definition of home evolves over the course of the novel. What does home mean and how does it change. See C-1 six pages in “But underneath it all growing up, home…” Consider other places where the novel focuses on hom. See also the first 4 paragraphs of C-2.
    2. Gender: the prologue deals with the issue of gender. Her identity as a woman is important as she grows up. Her involvement in feminist circles is complicated by race and sexuality. See the end of C-25.
    3. Race: especially look at her first trip to DC in C-10 and her second trip in C-20. Her racial identity develops from a lack of awareness (where do you see this) to a deep and despairing awareness. Some of her racial identity crystallizes when she leaves the US to travel to Mexico.
    4. Sexuality: throughout the novel, Audre discovers and claims her sexuality, with little support.
    5. Class: think here about the work opportunities for Audre’s mother, for Audre (Keystone Electronics and other jobs).
    6. These issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality converge to make identity formation difficult. Consider how those pieces come together in her development of mature identity.
    7. Epilogue: the questions set forth in the pro-prologue are answered throughout the novel, especially here. Also Zami is defined.

 

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